The Prime Minister paved the way for a limited relaxation at
Appearing via videolink from his test and trace-ordered quarantine, he also announced major rapid testing programmes for all areas forced into the highest tier of restrictions.
He said England will face tiered coronavirus restrictions until the end of March, despite the latest successful vaccine trials and rapid tests presenting a ‘route out of the pandemic’.
As the lockdown ends on December 2, more parts of England are expected to be placed into higher tiers than they were before the national restrictions were imposed.
Mr Johnson also said the new tiers would be tougher than their predecessors, after scientific advisers said the previous regime did not do enough to tackle the virus.
Here are some of the questions we now know answers to, following Mr Johnson’s announcements today:
Will the lockdown end next week?
Yes. Boris Johnson has confirmed today that the lockdown will end on December 2 – next Wednesday – and it is thought this will come into effect at 00.01am that day.
What will replace the lockdown?
The lockdown will be replaced by a system of regional restrictions in three tiers, which is expected to last until the end of March 2021.
Can you see friends outdoors again?
Yes. The Prime Minister said that from next Wednesday, anyone will be allowed to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six.
What else will return?
Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, the Prime Minister said without giving further details.
He added that personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.
Will nail salons and hairdressers be allowed to open?
Yes, nail salons and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen, falling under the ‘personal care’ sector.
Can non-essential shops open in all three tiers?
Yes. Mr Johnson has confirmed all shops can reopen, whatever tier their area is placed into, in what is a major boost for retailers during the festive period.
Christmas decorations adorn St Christopher’s Place in London today, as England continues in its four-week national lockdown intended to curb the spread of coronavirus
Will I be able to attend sports events?
Yes, with restrictions. Mr Johnson said that spectator sports in tiers one and two will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, ‘providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls’.
While Mr Johnson did not address specifics, it is understood the Government will allow the lower number of 4,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of a stadium’s capacity – for outdoor events in tier one areas. For indoor events in tier one, the maximum allowed will be the lower of 2,000 or 50 per cent of capacity.
In tier two areas, each of these numbers will be halved. So for outdoor events in Tier two, a maximum of 2,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower – will be allowed. For indoor events the lower number of either 1,000 fans – or 50 per cent of normal capacity – will be allowed.
Areas that will go straight into tier three however will still have to adhere to a ban of attending sporting events for all fans.
What will this mean for working from home?
Mr Johnson said people in tier one should work from home wherever possible. This is different to the more relaxed arrangement under tier one before lockdown.
Will pubs in tier two be allowed to stay open?
Yes, with new restrictions. Alcohol may now only be served in hospitality settings as part of a ‘substantial meal’.
This is different to before, when all pubs were allowed to stay open in tier two, whether or not they served food.
Will pubs in tier three be allowed to stay open?
No, apart from takeaways. Mr Johnson has ordered the closure of indoor entertainment, hotels and all forms of hospitality, except for deliveries and takeaways.
This is different to before, when tier three pubs could open but only when serving alcohol as part of a ‘substantial meal’.
Will the 10pm curfew rule be eased?
Yes, Mr Johnson has unveiled a plan so that while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.
A woman walks past Christmas decorations outside a wine shop in London’s Mayfair today
When will you know which tier your area will be put in?
This Thursday, when Ministers will announce which tier each area will enter based on scientific analysis of the local prevalence of Covid-19.
Will rules within tiers vary between areas?
No, the Prime Minister said tiers will now be a uniform set of rules. There will be no negotiations on additional measures between each region.
Will my area still be in the same tier as before?
Not necessarily. More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the tiered-system next month, the Prime Minister said.
Can I see my family at Christmas?
Possibly. Mr Johnson has set out the basis of plans to allow a small number of households across the UK to mix over a limited number of days around Christmas.
He has not yet given the specifics and said families will need to make a ‘careful judgement’ about visiting elderly relatives over Christmas.
The PM told MPs: ‘This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.
‘We will be publishing guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how to manage the risks in each tier as well as over Christmas.’
Can I see my family at Christmas if they don’t live in England?
Mr Johnson said the Government is working on a time-limited Christmas dispensation with the devolved administrations.
He told the Commons: ‘I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.
‘We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.
‘So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we’re working with the devolved administrations on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom.’
How will rapid testing be rolled out – and who will get it first?
Mr Johnson said rapid testing will be used by the end of the year to allow every care home resident to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week.
He also told MPs: ‘Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today. And from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.’
Mr Johnson said testing will enable students to ‘go home safely for Christmas’ and return back to university.
Will the UK have enough vaccines?
The Prime Minister said the UK has ‘more than enough for everyone in the UK, the crown dependencies and the overseas territories’ when it comes to vaccines.
He told the Commons: ‘The most hopeful advance of all is how vaccines are now edging ever closer to liberating us from the virus, demonstrating emphatically that this is not a pandemic without end.
‘We can take great heart from today’s news, which has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement. The vaccine developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity.
‘We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the crown dependencies and the overseas territories.
‘And the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme ready next month, the like of which you have never witnessed.’
What is happening with the testing system?
Mr Johnson said a ‘very substantial fall in infections’ has occurred in Liverpool after more than 200,000 people took part in community testing.
He told MPs: ‘Together with NHS Test and Trace and our fantastic armed forces, we will now launch a major community testing programme offering all local authorities in Tier 3 areas in England a six-week surge of testing.
‘The system is untried and there are of course many unknowns, but if it works we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.
‘Those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of easing the rules, the tiering they currently endure.’
Mr Johnson said daily testing will also be used as part of attempts to ‘end automatic isolation’ for close contacts of those testing positive for Covid-19.
Will we find out more about the post-lockdown plans tonight?
Possibly. Boris Johnson will hold a TV press conference at 7pm, with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Director of Oxford Vaccine Group Andrew Pollard.